Relationship In a 3 year long distance relationship with a veteran with PTSD, he is now avoiding coming to see me after 3 years of not seeing each other

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I dont know what the answer is, all i know is i love him, unconditionally and would do anything to help him and us make it through this.
You might consider the possibility of saying that, or something similar. It's simple and it's true. What he does with it is up to him.
if PTSD sufferers are aware that their reaction to something stems from the PTSD,
That's going to depend on the person and the situation. When I started working with a therapist, I kind of knew I had PTSD but thought I had it handled. He told me, in an email, before my first actual appointment that "if you have PTSD it affects more aspects of your life than you realize." Boy was THAT ever true! I'm more aware of it now. But I still need the space to think about it and some time to realize what's going on. What you experience is intensely REAL, whether it's an accurate reflection of the world as anyone else sees it or not. Maybe imagine that you're walking through the world wearing a pair of glasses that distort things like those fun house mirrors do. Your first task is to realize you're wearing glasses. Then to try to sort out how they affect things. Then try to get an accurate grasp of what's "really going on".

One small example. My T & I were talking about "making progress". I mentioned that I rarely, almost never, bothered to consider whether or not I could beat him to the door. (I choose my place to sit pretty carefully, with that sort of thing in mind.) He smiled and asked, "Did it ever occur to you that I'd just let you leave if you wanted to leave?" Well..... Actually, no, that had never occurred to me. Which probably seems dumb. And it's not an issue everyone has. And I was actually pretty sure my T was safe to be around too. But that's just how my brain has learned to see things. Your friend is going to have his own set of things like that. He might be aware of some or all of them, he might not.
What causes you to choose to not read it and scan it instead?
Reading requires the use of the so called "higher functions" in the brain. PTSD tends to take you right to the more life or death part of the brain. It's hard to read text when your brain is screaming something that suggests the world is coming to an end RIGHT NOW. (Speaking for just me.)
 

Friday

Moderator
What causes you to choose to not read it and scan it instead? Is it the same type of mechanism where it is just too much overwhelm?
Don’t eat for 3-4 days, then go attempt to read a menu at a new restaurant. Unless you’re hypoglycemic, in which case, even a few hours would cause the same effect.

It’s not a choice. It’s a a human thing.

At certain levels of stress the brain becomes incapable of performing certain tasks. Like reading. You see the words. They simply swirl together / don’t possess meaning / are useless to you.

The ability to scan is a hard won skill, from someone who has been dealing with that level of stress for a looooong time. Like, years. And even then? It’s hit or miss.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
do you think he himself is aware this is the reason for our breakup? Would it be triggering to bring this up with him? I dont want to appear as though i am psychoanalyzing him
Easiest way to avoid this? Don't psychoanalyze him.

In other words - what you're getting here is a better understanding of what PTSD is. But whether or not this is specifically at play with your partner - that's something that none of us can be certain of, and yourself included. Given what you've said about how he handled his PTSD -
I dont think he ever saw a therapist, he took 5 years to get through the deep sadness and despair (he told me, he used to cry and drink most nights for a long time).
- it's very possible that he dealt with the worst of the symptoms, and didn't necessarily spend ages deep-diving into the ways PTSD affects stress responses, even in situations where any reasonable person would be stressed. He might not attribute this to a PTSD flare - and, it might not even BE a PTSD flare. It's just that it's possible, that's the thing it's good for you to be aware of.

I think that if you want to ask him directly, "do you think any of your response here is related to PTSD?" - that'd be a fair question to ask. It might open up his own ability to think about the feelings and thoughts he's having. Or, he might confidently say "no, it's not" - and there's absolutely a chance he's totally right about that.

It's good that you seem to have an open line of communication with each other about the situation. Use it. Say what you want to say, is my opinion.
What did he actually say when he broke things off?
^^^ I'd be curious to hear this as well.
 

coraxxx

Sponsor
Something as well that is rather difficult for people who don't have PTSD to grasp is that the emergency shutdown mode can also come as being suddenly very clear or absolutely unemotional. It looks like you're acing it all or simply doing whatever you need to do, and I'm not too sure it even does feel like something once the action/flop mode has been triggered. Many horror moments I had aren't really what were so horrible? Waiting for them and having the time to worry and plan an escape or an action was much, much worse. It's like excruciating, painful, suffering boredom only interrupted by sheer bits of horror.

In a world like this what counts isn't even life or death, it's closer to action/inaction. You don't even conceive there is death around you, that's a given, and even if somehow it's deeply what makes you climb the wall like a fly, it's much denser than the very idea of obliteration. You can't name the void because it's void. Words do shatter.

And in a sense, but this might be truer for people who remained stuck for long in extreme situations, that constant fight against the nothingness very weirdly has some comfort. What you have to do is very clear. Things are a haze and a confusion anyway, and your survival hangs on very fleeting details. Your entire system is driven towards catching them and your speed to respond to these glimpses is crucial.

But back in normal life where you're hassled by a thousand micro decisions every single day, it's hard to triage which one of them means you're going to jump on a landmine (true or metaphorical) and which one is just normal.

In the ones that are the highest functioning, generally preserved areas of functioning will likely to be work, but not without difficulty. I can go relatively quiet for a long time without people even noticing there is something wrong about me. But man, did I have absolutely crazy meltdowns where the world just felt like swallowing me and spitting me back into pieces. It is very hard in these moments not to follow your feelings because they saved your life. Your craziness saved you. And you have to tolerate to shut down what could save you.

Now that I do know this is pee tee ess dee, there is more damage control but the way my brain does this now is to dissociate when any feeling, including joy, goes about a certain threshold. It's physical and there is very little I can do. I feel an emotion coming up then it cuts, like pulling the plug out. It is protective and in a way I am happy there is this mechanism but it doesn't make me exactly accessible to normal life. It also has emerged from periods of trauma were traumatic flight or fight type responses became highly hazardous, so the best thing I could do was to flop and play dead. Literally. It's completely possible to develop nested triggers, and that would be very specific to each person.

I guess what I mean is that there in the way that "there is more to it than a normal stress response", is that it's not just about the intensity of the response to stress, it's also about the style of response to stress. It can be intense, flickering, outright weird or be absent. It can be very inconsistent and volatile. It's not something linear, and it makes it even harder to tackle because of this.
 
Had you discussed moving to his country at all? I wonder how he would feel.about you visiting him for a short while, rather than him visiting you?
Today I had a meeting to attend (very simple, only 20-30 mins long and had my fiancé with me). I've done this sort of meeting a million times before without issue, yet today, post lockdowns, post otsd symptoms being realised, I felt sick, my stomach was in knots, physically painful. My jaw hurts from tension, I can't sleep and cried because I'm petrified of how all this will affect my fiancé, and he's already suffered more than anyone should ever have too (he witnessed and suffered trauma with me which caused depression for quite a while, but has not had ptsd symptoms). I don't even want to rhibk about visiting a big city, let alone move to one! I just couldn't cope right now. I'm not saying never, but definitely not now.

And I totally agree with the short email if it has to be an email. I can't lie, I've literally just started to skim through a few posts because my brain is fried. Think of it like total sensory overload. You want to read it, but the overload means there's literally no space left in the brain for it so you physically can't take it in. That's how it feels for me anyway.

You mentioned at times of high stress (I'm assuming ptsd flare up, hyper vigilance, possibly flash backs etc) that he can't read the wall of text and prefers to talk on the phone. This is definitely me too! Many times very recently I should/could have sent an email, but my brain couldn't compute and the anxiety of waiting for a response was too much for me to take. How would a phone call be instead of the email? Just a thought x
 
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